Vettor Pisani | Biography
Pisani was born in Bari in 1934. A cultured, complex and enigmatic artist, he loved to say that he was the son of a naval officer and a striptease artist from Ischia, building up a story that lay somewhere between truth and invention. This oscillation between two poles would be an Ariadne's thread in the boundless labyrinth of art history that he drew upon in order to demolish things and then give them new meanings. Pisani's endless artistic journey retraces real and imaginary episodes in the personal and collective unconscious, touching on key points of history and art, reinterpreting Duchamp and his image-conversion mechanism to obtain a new reading of art itself. Combining sculpture, installation, photography and performance, Vettor Pisani builds dreamlike places populated by virgins, sphinxes, puppets, bachelor machines, dolls, statues, and islands of the dead, which together symbolize the universe of individual neuroses, the private theatre of humanity with no illusions. In 1970, he held his first solo exhibition in Rome at the Galleria La Salita, entitled Maschile, femminile e androgino. Incesto e cannibalismo in Marcel Duchamp (Incest and cannibalism in Marcel Duchamp), where he presented Suzanne in uno stampo di cioccolato, a chocolate female head over which hangs a small barbell, and Carne umana macinata, minced meat wrapped in clear plastic and left to rot. In the same year, he was awarded the Premio Pino Pascali by the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna. In 1972, accompanied by his wife, Mimma, a poet and author with whom he has been associated from the start, Pisani was invited to Documenta 5 in Kassel, where he presented his performance Lo Scorrevole. Inspired by a comparison of two fundamental works by Marcel Duchamp: La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même (1915-1923) and L’Étant donnés (1946-1966), the performance showed a naked and androgynous woman, hanging from a mechanism like a ‘bachelor machine’, symbol of love and death, Eros and Thanatos, male and female. These were the years of Fellini's Rome and Pasolini's suburbs; the years when artists were beginning to emerge from the traditional settings of art and when Pisani strengthened his association with Gino De Dominicis, sharing his interest in the invisible and the supernatural. Quotations from art (Duchamp, Böcklin, Dali, Beuys, Klein) and history are all present in his work, constant references to psychoanalysis (Freud and Wittegenstein) and the aesthetics of the Rosicrucians, esoteric symbols and alchemical rituals, the myths of Oedipus and the Sphinx, which, extrapolated from their original context, find their place in a new iconographic fabric. In 1975, the Sperone Gallery in Rome was the setting for his action Il coniglio non ama Joseph Beuys (The rabbit dislikes Joseph Beuys), offering a critical reflection on the poetics of the German artist, a satire of the manly courage demonstrated by Beuys in 1974 in his performance I like America and America likes me, in which the German artist had spent two days locked in a cage with a coyote. Pisani stages, as though at the theatre, complex situations that mix references to the past and portions of reality, where the effigy of art in life and vice versa is consumed in the presence of the remains of History. Between 1976 and 1995 he participated in the Venice Biennale six times, three times at the Rome Quadrennial, and at national and international exhibitions like Avanguardia/Transavanguardia in Rome and Italian Art Now: an American Perspective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1982; Terrae Motus and Terrae Motus 2 in Villa Campolieto in Herculaneum in 1986 and the Grand Palais in Paris in 1987. In 1997 he went on show at the exhibition Pittura italiana da Collezioni Italiane at the Castello di Rivoli. In 2005, he participated in the exhibition Il Bello e le bestie – Metamorfosi, artifici e ibridi dal mito all’immaginario scientifico at MART in Rovereto. In the same year, he returned to his native island, Ischia, and with the Fondazione Morra put on an exhibition Nostalgia.Volo di ritorno. In 2007, he took L’Isola interiore. Isolamenti e Follia, edited by Achille Bonito Oliva, to the Venice Biennale as a collateral event. In 2011 he held a personal exhibition, Apocalypse now, in Naples. It would be his latest exhibition. In 2013, the Museo Madre di Napoli dedicated the first and most complete retrospective, Eroica/Antieroica, to his memory.